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Layup Line: SMU, Again

After a crushing - and unexpected - loss to ECU, the Bearcats travel southwest to a tough environment in SMU. What are the odds they escape with a victory?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to interrupt your signing day readings with a little basketball coverage. I know, I know - after Sunday's excruciating loss to ECU, you're probably enjoying the football distraction. But we have a job to do here, and, well, so do you - so read on...

  • Game: Thursday, February 5 @ 9:00pm ET
  • Location: Moody Coliseum; Dallas, TX
  • TV/Radio: ESPN; 700 WLW

Another game on the big network - ESPN - and you can bet the SMU fans will be pulling out all the stops tonight. An already intimidating environment to play in, Moody Coliseum will be rocking with rowdy students and fans alike. Which gives me great pause for concern.

Remember what happened last year when the 'Cats ventured to Dallas? They got blitzed by 19 in a game that wasn't ever really competitive. Add to the fact that we all know how UC's playing on the road so far this year, and yeah...

On the flip side, could it be that Sunday's loss to ECU is the kick in the shorts an inexperienced Bearcat team needs? Plus, SMU has won 8 in a row since their last loss, so they're bound to slip up at some point, right? Oh yeah, and that last loss was to the Bearcats, so we already know the Bearcats can beat the Mustangs. And now SMU's ranked #23 in the nation. How many times have we seen a team sneak into the top 25 only to get lazy and slip up?

The stars are aligning...

What the Cat's have to do to win:

  • Defensive focus. And it starts with their point guard. Give me more Troy Caupain-against-UConn and less Troy Caupain-against-ECU. If he comes out with that swagger and confidence we saw earlier last week, the Bearcats could hold SMU under 60 points total - a feat that's only been accomplished against SMU once all year, by you-know-who.
  • Weather the early storm. With a fired-up crowd, the Mustangs'll look to come out hot. Force a couple early turnovers and set a slower pace. UC can't afford to get behind by 6-8 early.
  • Outrebound SMU. That's a tall task against a Mustang squad that averages over 37 boards a game and a +8.4 margin. But unless Cincinnati finds the magic elixir that came in the second half of their victory over Temple, the Bearcats will need to own the boards to have a chance.

Remember, when things go south, it's rarely as bad as it seems. Yes, the loss to ECU wasn't good - but it also wasn't the season-ending, tournament hope-slashing loss that a lot of people made it out to be in the minutes after its conclusion.

I think the Bearcats will give a much better effort than they did against ECU (after all, they kind of have to, right?). But I'm not sure it'll be enough. Tonight feels like one of those nights where no matter what they do, they're walking right into a buzz saw. And you'll get to listen to Bob Knight break it all down: Mustangs in a close one: 63-58